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date: 29 February 2024


A Dictionary of Film Studies

Annette Kuhn,

Guy Westwell

mise-en-scene (French staged) 

In theatre, the contents of the stage and their arrangement; in cinema, the contents of the film frame, including elements of the profilmic event such as performers, settings, costumes, and props (see acting; performance). Mise-en-scene also refers more broadly to what the viewer actually sees on the screen (lighting, colour, composition, and iconographic aspects of the cinematic image, for example); and also to the relationship between onscreen and offscreen space created by the framing of the image and by camera movement. A key component of film style, mise-en-scene produces meaning, if only at a very basic level, by providing visual information about the world of a film's narrative, say. In some films, however, mise-en-scene can be a site of extraordinarily complex and subtle meanings, as in the Hollywood films of Douglas Sirk, for example, in which mise-en-scene often provides ironic commentary on the characters and the worlds they inhabit. In film studies, mise-en-scene is an indispensable concept in understanding film style and in making critical distinctions between films of different genres, historical periods, and national provenances; it can also be a key concept in studies of authorship in film. See also film form; genre; iconography; medium specificity.

Further Reading:

Bordwell, David and Thompson, Kristin Film Art: An Introduction 176–228, (2004).Find this resource:

Gibbs, John Mise-En-Scene: Film Style and Interpretation (2001).Find this resource: